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Angola: Women show up in force for João Lourenço's final rally

João Lourenço, outgoing Angolan President   -  
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Women in support of the MPLA's João Lourenço (outgoing president and candidate 'number 8' for presidential election) turned up on Monday in force for his final rally ahead of the Angolan elections on August 24.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the messages that have been sent to us" says Lourenço in an address to the large crowds inside Arena Kilamba stadium, Luanda.

Lourenço with his wife highlighted and commited themselves to women issues, vowing to increase their positions in leadership.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the messages that have been sent to us, messages from different parts of our society, women from different walks of life. The right to employment, the right to evolve in professional fields, the right to occupy important positions in politics in the hierarchy of the Angolan State, all these rights must be reframed for the Angolan woman. "

If the ruling MPLA party wins, president Lourenço's running mate, Esperanca Maria Eduardo Francisco da Costa, would be the country's first female vice-president.

Angolans head to the polls Wednesday in what is expected to be the closest election since the country first allowed a multi-party vote in 1992.

A sea of red-and-green-clad supporters rallied in a densely populated and impoverished district of Angola's capital Luanda Monday to show support for the opposition group posing the biggest threat to the long-ruling MPLA party.

"President Adalberto!" chanted the crowd, dressed in the party colours of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), as its leader Adalberto Costa Junior arrived.

The thousands of supporters -- mainly young people -- were feverish with excitement, chanting "the black rooster" in reference to UNITA's symbol.

"You're showing that Angola has a fighting spirit," Costa Junior told the crowds in response. 

UNITA, a rebel movement turned political party, is one of seven opposition parties standing in Wednesday's elections.

But it is the main rival to the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has ruled the oil-rich country since independence from Portugal in 1975.

"Don't be afraid of an alternative, long live free and fair elections. There is no democracy without changing of power," Costa Junior told supporters, who had gathered in a dusty field in the city's Cazenga neighbourhood. "There is no democracy with a single party in power." 

Supporters are enthused by Costa Junior's approach to politics, in building a coalition with other opposition parties to take on the MPLA.

"We are here because people want an alternative. Angola is a rich country but its people are suffering. It's very sad. We absolutely want an alternative," said Luis Santana, a street vendor who earns $5 per day.

UNITA has formed an electoral coalition with two other opposition groups to boost its chances of defeating the MPLA. And the opposition's united front was clear to see on the rally podium.

Costa Junior was joined by the popular Abel Chivukuvuku, president of the PRA-JA Servir Angola party, along with the head of Democratic Bloc party, Filomeno Vieira Lopes.

Despite the excitement over the opposition and high levels of despair and frustration among its mainly youthful supporters, analysts say that the MPLA however is likely to win the vote.

An Afrobarometer survey in May showed support for the opposition was growing but still trailed by seven percentage points behind the MPLA. But then you only have to wait for the D-day itself.

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